Tempsford Halifax LK743

Royal Air Force Badge Flag of Belgium

Location: Tetworth Hall 7th January 1944.

Captain: Pilot Officer. H.M.Kennedy RAFVR
Sgt P.S.Barlow RAFVR
Flt. Sgt. D.F.Davies DFM RAFVR.
Sgt H.S.Howlett RAFVR
Sgt V.A.E.Theedom RAFVR
Sgt E.S.Thripp RAFVR
Sgt R. Hiersaux - passenger
Sgt Hector Goffin - passenger
Sgt Rene Michaux - passenger
Capt Henri Paul Verhaegen- passenger
Sgt S.Whiteley RAFVR
Capt H.J. Waddington

Handley Page Halifax.

There were four Belgium Special Agents on the plane, of whom understandably very little appears to be known: Sgt H. Goffin; Sgt R. Michaux; Sgt. R. Hiersaux and Captain H.P. Verhaegen.

Sgt R. Hiersaux and Capt H.J. Waddington survived the crash (brother of Wilfred Waddington). The rest of the crew were killed.

Airborne 2032 on OPERATION TYBALT 3 and THERSITES 4, setting course for the Drop Zone in Belgium. Halifax Mk 5, LK743, NF-J rejoined the Tempsford circuit four hours 43 minutes later without the port- outer engine which would not feather. The heavily laden aircraft crashed at nearby Tetworth Hall, Bedford, and caught fire. Of the four Belgian agents, Capt Henri Verhaegen is buried at Mortseldorp, south of Antwerpen, two of his three companions are known to have hailed from Chatelet and Tamines respectively.

There are some details about these agents and the operation on this Web page, scroll down to the heading "12pm".

Captain Verhaegen is mentioned in a book "Airborne Espionage: International Special Duty Operations in the World Wars" on the operations of the SOE, on this page, you may have to enlarge the image to see it.

It is probable that this aircraft also dropped the British agent Wilfrid Waddington and the Belgian agent Philippe de Liederkerke before turning for home.

It seems so poignant that the 3 agents should die when they must have thought themselves safely returned to England.

Details obtained from Aircraft lost on Allied Force’s Special Duty Operations & Associated Roll of Honour page 157.

The threads for Flt. Sgt. Davies suggest another plane was involved in this accident, but this may be related to the collision between a Stirling and a Mustang. However, the web site also records the accident for LK743 as possibly involving another aircraft, but states that it was the Halifax LK743 rather than Mustang 42-106448 which crashed into a local cottage, killing civilian Mr. Fred Gore on the ground. This is the only place I have found this statement. The Aircraft lost on Allied Force’s Special Duty Operations & Associated Roll of Honour page 481 clearly records the collision as occurring between the Mustang 42-106448 and Stirling LK236, so I am fairly confident the Mustang was not involved with Halifax LK743. Another record on the internet suggests the plane which hit the cottage was Mosquito HX972 which I now think the most likely, see the box below.

I suspect memories may play a part in these inconsistencies.

I contacted Bernard O'Connor about the details of which plane actually crashed into the cottages, and he very kindly replied. His source was a book by Freddie Clark "Agents by Moonlight". Although I think I may have to leave it as "undecided" just yet, in reality, perhaps the strongest evidence suggests it was Mosquito HX972 that crashed into the cottage, and not this Halifax. If anyone can shed any additional light on this subject, please share it!